News: graceless under pressure
Talk about lack of class.
No, not "Da Boys," as The Dallas Morning News' intensely unhip editorial page habitually--and ludicrously--refers to them.
BeloWatch is speaking, of course, about Dallas' Only Daily.
In a January 26 pre-Super Bowl editorial headlined "Da Boys--It's time to show class as well as confidence," the News warned the Cowboys that "they will have to demonstrate some personal class, win or lose, if they are to remain 'America's team.'"
Words to live by, indeed. If only the News would take them to heart.
Earlier in the week, the News--with its much-touted Tempe-based battalion of Super Bowl reporters, columnists, photographers, editors, copy boys, and personal assistants--had gotten its butt kicked by Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Jim Reeves on a new wrinkle in the fascinating story of Troy Aikman's frosty relationship with head coach Barry Switzer.
Reeves broke the story on the Thursday before the game, on the top of the Star-Telegram's daily Super Bowl section. Its headline--"Aikman vs. Switzer overshadows game"--was a case study in editorial hyperbole (remember: this is the paper that gave readers the tasteless front-page banner "ABDUCTED GIRL'S THROAT CUT," prompting a Page One apology the next day from Executive Editor Debbie Price.) But Reeves put in print--solidly--what legions of competing sports scribes had not. His lead: "The Cowboys will attempt to win their third Super Bowl in four years Sunday with a head coach and a quarterback who are barely speaking and an owner who is convinced that a victory against the Steelers is the panacea for that troubled relationship.
"He's dead wrong," opined Reeves in his column.
Relying on direct comments by Aikman ("the idea that one game, one victory, would change the way I feel about this season--no, that's not going to happen"), and well-grounded reporting on the development of the conflict (Reeves' freshest angle: departed defensive line coach John Blake's complaint to Switzer that Aikman was on the case of black players), Reeves placed it all in a sober, reasonable context. "Players say there is absolutely no black-white problem on the team, and [owner Jerry] Jones agrees." But the Aikman-Switzer rift, he wrote, "threatens team unity...and the long-term success of the Cowboys. Aikman...might choose to retire early or even ask for a trade. It has crossed his mind."
The report obsessed the story-hungry media hordes in Arizona, and virtually everyone prominently--and deservedly--attributed the report detailing the rift to the Star-Telegram.
Virtually everyone but The Dallas Morning News. The next day, the News' Ed Werder authored a page-one story ("Switzer, Aikman confront rumors of racial tension") reporting that coach and quarterback both "publicly addressed for the first time locker-room rumors that Mr. Aikman had singled out black teammates for criticism during the season."
Werder's story focused on the issue of whether a racial conflict exists on the team--an issue Reeves' reporting had raised and clearly disposed of. Werder also quoted Aikman's agent confirming Reeves' account that Blake's complaint to Switzer about Aikman's treatment of black players had infuriated the quarterback.
But Werder never--not once--mentioned the Star-Telegram or Reeves' column.
Randy Galloway's sports-page column did, but--incredibly--only to declare that the piece shouldn't have been written.
Galloway served as the whiny mouthpiece for the beaten News' harvest of sour grapes. "There is a story to be told," Galloway intoned, in a column headlined "Truth lost in spotlight's glare." It will be "an ugly story in many regards," with "some racism, although, for the most part, the racism is merely camouflage.
"Actually, this story would be about the most talented and high-priced talent in the game of football being on the verge of coming apart at the heart and soul.
"And about just how close this particular team came to self-destruction."
But does Galloway tell this extraordinary story? Of course not. Because he hasn't got it--or if he has, he hasn't chosen to write it.
Instead, he sets down rules for how the story should be done: "told only by that quarterback, or by other players who are personally close to that quarterback...also, we should hear from those on the other side.
"This story should not--no way--be told by unnamed sources, even if those sources are telling the truth."
And on and on and on--complete with a bizarre, oblique stab at "known media housemen for the team's owner or its head coach." Talk about a chickenshit cheap shot! Come on, Randy--if you want to attack someone, name names. But that must not be necessary in Dallas' Only Daily--at least not in the Galloway Journalism School, where they lecture you not to publish what the Morning News hasn't got.
"But on Thursday," Galloway lamented, "at least part of that story--the racist part--became a Super Bowl issue. Seventy-two hours before kickoff in the biggest and final game of a turbulent season, the quarterback had to suddenly deal with an issue he thought had been put to rest.
"There was a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram of an unnamed source saying Aikman remained miffed at Barry Switzer over the head coach's handling of a December crisis point." Writes Galloway: "Yes, this was an issue of December I would have loved to hear properly addressed. But only," writes Galloway, "straight from the mouths of Aikman, Blake, Switzer and others who were directly involved, and only after a cooling-off period following a season of turmoil.
"In the gigantic media spotlight of Super Bowl week, it's too easy for the truth either to be lost or distorted."
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Especially if it doesn't come from The Dallas Morning News. Would Galloway--and the News--have had these philosophical problems with daily journalism's lack of tidiness had his own paper broken this story?
Not for a nanosecond.
Was his own attention-grabbing column about Deion San>ders not pulling his weight "properly addressed" in midseason? Shouldn't there have been a "cooling-off period" before its publication?
Reeves deserves credit for pulling together a real story. Too bad Dallas' Only Daily utterly lacked the class to acknowledge it.
As a final note, consider the Cowboys-related fiction the News also published on its front page on Friday--Maryln Schwartz's chatty profile portraying the hard-drinking, skirt-chasing Jerry Jones as the consummate family man.